For most organizations, building a mobile app is not a small endeavor. It takes a lot of time, energy and money to get your app out into the world. So what do you do when that mobile app isn’t delivering the results you hoped for? What if your goals have changed or your users are asking for functionality that wasn’t in your original strategy? Should you add enhancements to your existing app, or is it time to start fresh with something new? And how do you determine which approach is best?
Because we approach mobile as a lifecycle, the Phunware team thinks about these questions all the time. It’s never just “build it and forget about it.” Phase 1: Strategize comes up over and over as we go through the mobile app lifecycle. And many times, customers come to us with an existing app that’s starting to age. In this case, Phase 1 entails defining the specific feature sets and use cases that are needed to support the customer’s business goals now.
So what types of add-on features do folks with existing apps want the most?
Our 6 Most-Requested App Enhancements
- Monetize the app with advertising
- Differentiate the experience between anonymous and registered users (e.g., adding personalizing and / or exclusive content for registered users)
- Add indoor wayfinding or blue-dot navigation
- Make the design more flexible
- Add third-party integrations or technologies (e.g. media players, analytics, CRM, authentication)
- Make the entire app portfolio more manageable
6 Questions to Ask About Your Existing App
When deciding whether to add capabilities or start from scratch, the real issues lie in how the original app was built. Think of an app like a house—whether you want to add on a master bathroom or an entire second story, you have to start by making sure the existing structure is sound. If it’s not, that gorgeous master bathroom could come crashing down on your head.
Unless you’ve got an expert dev team in house, ultimately you’ll need a trusted development partner who can evaluate your existing app within the context of your desired enhancements.
Here are a few key questions to consider about your existing app:
- Is the codebase organized and up-to-date?
- Were any unconventional coding styles used?
- What warnings and errors appear when inspecting the code?
- Are all existing features working properly?
- Is the architecture extensible? Can it support additional features and functionality?
- Have any and all existing SDKs been implemented properly?
Carefully considering these questions might reveal some issues that need fixing before you can add enhancements. Though an app might work fine with a few errors or quirks in the architecture or codebase, you can run into real trouble when you start trying to build more on top of it. Really significant issues can multiply the development and testing efforts exponentially. At a certain point, it’s both financially and strategically wiser to start over.
How Do You Make a Smart Decision?
If your development partner spots any issues with your existing app, ask for two estimates: one for a “fix and enhance” solution and one for a complete rebuild.
- The “fix and enhance” estimate should include a breakdown of the problems plus an estimate of the time and budget required to fix them, and any potential negative ramifications of performing these fixes. It should also include an estimate for adding any new requested features or capabilities.
- The complete rebuild estimate should comprise building a new version of your existing app with better code and a more flexible and extensible infrastructure, along with the new features and capabilities you’re looking for.
Naturally, you’ll want to compare the two estimates. If the costs for a “fix and enhance” approach are lower than those for a complete rebuild—and they may well be—make sure you understand the possible ramifications. For example, if the original codebase has to be modified to accommodate a new feature or function, this modification might limit the app’s extensibility in the future or hinder some previously implemented integrations. Plus, the more “hot fixes” applied to the code, the greater the risk of failure.
In the long run, patching together a creaky old app could cost you more and more as time goes on and additional fixes are required. And if the user experience begins to suffer, you could be jeopardizing your audience and even your brand reputation. There may be good reason to go with a “fix and enhance” approach for now—just make sure you’re making the most strategic and well-informed decision you can.
Learn more about taking the strategic approach to mobile application lifecycle management in this comprehensive eBook: Mobile First: Harnessing the App Lifecycle for Transformative Business Success.